*****Disclaimer: This is not legal advice and is for educational purposes only. This does not create an attorney-client privilege.
We are in another election year and it is (nearly past) time to start considering not only who you want to vote for as president and to represent you regionally, but also to start doing your research on the measures on the California State Ballot this year. Or alternatively, you can follow this series of blog posts to get a summary of what's at stake with each measure, who is in support of and opposed to it, and a progressive's guide on checking No or Yes.
Proposition 20, a measure to vastly increase the punitive approach of our criminal justice system, is up on the ballot this year. There are parole programs established for non-violent offenders who have completed the full term of their primary offense, and this measures proposes to limit access to these programs by eliminating eligibility for certain other non-violent offenses that had originally been covered under it. The fiscal impact of this measure passing is estimated to cost in the tens of millions in state funds, all being diverted to local and state correctional facilities, courts and law enforcement agencies in order for them to take a more punitive, rather than rehabilitative, approach to criminal justice.
A vote for yes on this measure would mean that you are voting against the goals of and the recently peaking national outcry for criminal justice reform. A yes vote would mean that certain individuals who have committed a non-violent crime related to theft would receive harsher penalties than our already extremely carceral approach. These individuals would be locked up even longer. Additional factors would also be taken into consideration before releasing these prisoners early or for parole programs, making it even more difficult to qualify. It would also require law enforcement to begin collecting DNA samples convicted for certain non-violent misdemeanors; the current practice is to only take these kinds of samples in more extreme circumstances.
Overall, a vote for yes would hand over even more power to an already extremely wealthy and powerful institution that is widely criticized for being rife with corruption and systemic racism. This proposition passing would fly in the face of all the work that has been done in the last several months and even years. It would be a major loss for BLM and for other groups organizing for criminal justice reform.
A vote for NO on Prop 20 would mean that policies remain the same. We already have harsh and penalizing system for those who commit petty theft and other non violent offenses; this would remain the same and penalties would not increase. Law enforcement would only be required to collect DNA in cases wherein a felony was committed or with sex offenders or arsonists. The police already have so much power, we should definitely be wary of giving them even more access, money and power, while we further limit our right to privacy or criminals rights to rehabilitation. You should vote NO on Prop 20 because what we need is for prisoners to be rehabilitated, not to give more money to already overly funded and racist institutions like prisons and law enforcement.